Construction to start on final passenger rail improvements in Roanoke

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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) Perhaps you've seen the work near the intersection of Albemarle Avenue and Williamson Road. That's where Roanoke's new passenger train will be serviced overnight.

And construction of the passenger platform will begin soon along the rails in downtown Roanoke.

"We're looking to start construction in early 2017," said City Engineer Phil Schirmer. "As soon as we get that done, then we can look forward to passenger service."

Another person looking forward to passenger service is Brian Wells, the new General Manager of the Hotel Roanoke.

While many in southwestern Virginia plan to take the train to Washington, DC and beyond, Wells hopes the train will bring visitors in our direction.

"It's going to run from Alexandria through Charlottesville, down to Lynchburg to here," Wells told WDBJ7. "That run from Lynchburg to here is really a scenic run, and we think we can create a lot of romance with it. We kind of jokingly are calling it the Love Train here at the hotel."

So when will Roanoke's love affair with passenger rail resume?

Construction of the platform is slated to take ten months, and state officials say the first trains could be rolling by late fall.

Chris Smith is the Director of Policy, Communications and Legislative Affairs with the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

"Roanoke has always been the next logical market, the next place to deliver service to," Smith said, "so we're getting there, we're real close now."

The new platform will be 800 feet long to accommodate an eight or nine car passenger train.

The work will extend from Warehouse Row to the Wells Fargo Tower.

Several months of construction, and some inconvenience are ahead in downtown Roanoke as the city, the state, Norfolk Southern and Amtrak make final preparations for the return of passenger rail.